InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Climate of Change > Unit 3: Anomalous Behavior > Case Study 3.1 - Predicting Patterns: What Does La Niña Look Like?
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Case Study 3.1 - Predicting Patterns: What Does La Niña Look Like?

Cynthia M. Fadem, Earlham College (fademcy@earlham.edu)
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This material was developed and reviewed through the InTeGrate curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:

  • team-based development to ensure materials are appropriate across multiple educational settings.
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  • real in-class testing of materials in at least 3 institutions with external review of student assessment data.
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This page first made public: Jun 24, 2014

Summary

This activity is designed to allow students who have been exposed to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation to analyze the La Niña mechanism and predict its outcomes. Students create an SST map for La Niña and both temperature and precipitation maps for the three states of ENSO. The exercise can be completed as part of the complete Climate of Change InTeGrate Module, Unit 3, or as a stand alone activity.

Learning Goals

During this activity students will:

My goals in creating this activity were to:

Context for Use

Prior to the activity some exposure to El Niño will be necessary. If you are using the rest of Unit 3, which includes lecture material, no additional instruction is necessary.

This activity takes roughly 30 minutes and can be used

Description and Teaching Materials

In the first half of the activity, students demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of El Niño (ENSO+) and ENSO normal conditions by identifying their SST expressions. They then use ENSO mechanics to create a sea surface temperature map for La Niña. This exercise helps them to learn about La Niña as an expression of the ENSO system, rather than as a separate phenomenon.

In the second half, students create precipitation maps for all three ENSO conditions. This part of the activity will likely take a little more time, since they have to process the atmospheric connection between SST and precipitation in concert with three different expressions. Even if they have seen diagrams of ENSO including precipitation, students may have some difficulty making the appropriate connections. This exercise allows them to synthesize and evaluate what they have learned about climate and El Niño.

Questions embedded in the activity ask them to reflect on their projections and the nature of ENSO. Many of your students' responses will vary in both correctness and insight. Depending on the rest of your course material and students' experiences, you will have to gauge acceptability of some responses; so the instructor's notes are simply a guide and not a key.

The display version of the SST maps is available in case you cannot print student assignments in color.

There are further opportunities for reflection and synthesis if you complete both Unit 3 activities, as students will be able to compare their predictions from this activity with real SST anomaly maps from Case Study 3.2.

Materials:

Case Study 3.1 Display
Click to view
Display:



Teaching Notes and Tips

Some students may have difficulty projecting La Niña.

Depending on the rest of your course material and your students' experience, you may have to approach the projection of precipitation intensity differently.

Assessment

You can use this activity formatively or summatively, but I recommend using it formatively if you are using only one of the Unit 3 activities. You can develop exam questions to assess this activity directly from the learning outcomes.

References and Resources

La Niña
ENSO
Atmospheric convection

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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »